Seanad debates

Tuesday, 3 October 2006

Services for People with Disabilities

 

6:00 pm

Photo of Ulick BurkeUlick Burke (Fine Gael)
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I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Brian Lenihan, to the House. This matter concerns the need for the Minster for Health and Children and the Health Service Executive, HSE, to provide adequate funding to the service providers, the Brothers of Charity, in Ballinasloe for the delivery of a properly resourced service to persons with disabilities, both adults and children, who are experiencing severe curtailment of their services.

The Brothers of Charity and the Galway County Association have been the service providers for both children and adults with disabilities in County Galway for many years. The €60 million provided is broken down on a 40-20 basis between them but most of the public representatives in the east Galway area were called to a crisis meeting in Ballinasloe recently where the Ballinasloe Advocates, a voluntary organisation made up mainly of parents and siblings of people with disabilities of one kind or another, outlined the crisis facing them in the Ballinasloe area. The provision of services is now at crisis point. The reserves that are held to deal with a crisis, as inevitably happens at some time in the year to some family, will be exhausted within the near future. Of the new moneys that are supposed to be provided — €10 million nationally — Galway would be entitled to about €1 million of that on the basis of population and the increasing numbers of people identified with special needs in this area. That money has not been released by the HSE. I ask the Minister of State to ensure that either he or the Minister, Deputy Harney, would instruct the HSE to provide as a matter of urgency the additional funding due to the people in Galway to allow them continue to provide reasonable standards for the people with disabilities in the Ballinasloe area.

Everybody realises the value for money being provided by the service providers in the area. In fact, they are providing services to many more people than those for whom they are funded through the voluntary contributions made by people in the county and through fund-raising and otherwise. One must realise that the 2006 new moneys provide only 13.75 residential places for 131 unmet needs; only 28.6 day places for 46 unmet needs; and only 4.4 residential support places for 161 unmet needs. The majority of those are spread throughout the county and a great proportion of them are within the Ballinasloe service providers area. That demands an urgent response from the Minister of State and the Minister, Deputy Harney, with regard to the delivery of services.

Another matter that must be examined clearly is that under the old health board system, the resources delivered in the former Western Health Board area were provided at a ratio of 3:2:1 to counties Galway, Mayo and Roscommon, respectively. Given the high population in County Galway and Galway city relative to the other two counties, this breakdown was totally unsuitable and was obviously unbalanced. Thus, County Roscommon's absolute needs are met, whereas that is not the case in County Galway. Moreover, the Government's disbursement figures are based on the 2002 census. However, four years have passed and the population has increased considerably, particularly in County Galway and Galway city. In addition, there is greater recognition of the needs of younger and elderly people who may not have been identified at an early stage heretofore. It is known that early intervention is of the utmost importance for many people with special educational needs. The Brothers of Charity should be able to provide such services to such people.

At present in County Galway, a total of 1,173 people — many of whom are in Ballinasloe — are on waiting lists for therapies of one kind or other. Several children have passed through the services provided by the Brothers of Charity and the Galway County Association and have returned to mainstream education, only to find that speech therapy is unavailable in many rural schools. No speech therapists are available to travel to such areas and the same is true for other service providers.

Hence, such pupils now lack these services. They are in mainstream education and last May, many of them were told they would not have an assessment until next September. How can this be reconciled with the statement of the former Minister for Education and Science, Deputy Martin, on 5 November 1998, which is on the minds of all who have children with special needs? He asserted that the special needs sector would not want, geographical location would not be a problem and such children would have a right to their needs. In other words, they would have the right to their particular need and it would not be subject to resources. When the Minister of the day was questioned regarding resources, he made assurances they would be provided and that there would be no shortage of money in this area. However, not only is there a shortage of money to keep such services in place at present, there is also a shortage of staff.

I wish to place a statement on the record.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Fine Gael)
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I thought the Senator had nearly concluded.

Photo of Ulick BurkeUlick Burke (Fine Gael)
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I will finish on this important point and beg the Leas-Chathaoirleach's indulgence.

A lady of 74 years, who is mother of a child named Patrick with special needs wrote that while she cared for him full-time, she had been staying in Portiuncula Hospital since last June and did not know how much longer she would be there. She depends on her daughters to look after him, one of whom lives in Kerry and the other in Birr. However, for personal reasons, her daughters would be unable to care for him in the following week. As her son has Prader-Willi syndrome, he needs full-time residential care with supervision and she concluded with the hope that I would give the matter my immediate attention.

Her daughter also wrote in connection with her brother Patrick. She noted that her mother was in full-time care in hospital and might be there for some time. While she and her sister had taken care of Patrick, they have families of their own and have been obliged to spend much time away from their homes. They are unable to give Patrick the full care he deserves. She noted that while he attends Creagh day care centre, she and her sister live in Birr and Kerry, respectively, and it was not always possible to reach him at the centre. They find themselves in an impossible situation and need all the help they can get.

This is from a hospitalised lady of 74 years, with an adult son in need of full-time care, which is unavailable. However, it was available before. Therefore, I reiterate my request that immediate action be taken to release the resources necessary to the Brothers of Charity and the other centres in Ballinasloe to provide the services for the young and adult people who are in need.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Fine Gael)
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Before calling on the Minister of State to reply, I welcome to the Gallery Mr. John Browne, a former Member of the House from Carlow.

Photo of Brian Lenihan JnrBrian Lenihan Jnr (Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Minister of State, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Minister of State, Department of Health and Children; Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
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I join the Leas-Chathoirleach's welcome to a former Member of both Houses.

I wish to deal with the matter raised by Senator Ulick Burke on the Adjournment. I wish to outline the position regarding the additional funding provided for services for children and adults with a disability in 2006, as well as funding specifically provided to the Brothers of Charity in respect of services in Galway.

The matter of contracting and funding services provided by organisations such as the Brothers of Charity is a matter for the Health Service Executive in accordance with its functions under the Health Act 2004. The executive has advised the Minister that it is unaware of any existing or proposed curtailment of services provided by the Brothers of Charity in Ballinasloe. The executive has confirmed that in its 2006 service plan, a sum of €40 million was assigned to the Brothers of Charity services in Galway, of which €3.2 million was allocated to the services provided by the organisation at Ballinasloe.

In addition, more than €1 million in new service development money for 2006 was allocated by the executive to the Brothers of Charity services in Galway, which will increase to €1.2 million in a full year. This funding comes from the multi-annual investment programme for 2006 to 2009, which is part of the national disability strategy being implemented by the Government.

Additional funding amounting to €51.5 million has been provided by the Government in 2006 to develop services for persons with intellectual disability and those with autism. This has enabled the provision of 255 new residential places, 85 new respite places, 535 new day places, 250,000 extra hours of home support and personal assistance services and the continuation of the transfer of persons with intellectual disability or autism from psychiatric hospitals and other inappropriate placements.

Further substantial funding of €22.5 million has been provided in 2006 to enhance the multidisciplinary support services for children and adults with physical, sensory and intellectual disabilities, as well as those with autism. The funding will also address core underfunding and staffing issues in services for people with disabilities provided by the voluntary sector.

Capital funding amounting to €45 million has also been provided in 2006 to develop the buildings and facilities for the new services. I believe that the extent of this extra funding — a total of €119 million this year alone — clearly illustrates the Government's commitment to improving our disability services, including those provided by the Brothers of Charity.

Photo of Ulick BurkeUlick Burke (Fine Gael)
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An officer of the Health Service Executive, who attended the same group meeting as we had held earlier, stated that he was quite shocked by the shortfall in the services which he had seen. He stated that there were shortfalls at all times due to the lack of proper funding for the services in the past. He was also concerned at the manner in which moneys were distributed in the west using a ratio of 3:2:1. These sentiments were expressed last week and therefore I cannot understand how the Health Service Executive has reported to the Minister of State in the manner stated in his reply, which describes a different situation. This must be taken in hand.

Photo of Brian Lenihan JnrBrian Lenihan Jnr (Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Minister of State, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Minister of State, Department of Health and Children; Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
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I will bring the Member's comments to the Health Service Executive's attention.